I feel like I will never have a stronger connection to music other than the music I grew up with. Whether it was the Rock ‘n’ Roll I danced to in the family room with my dad as a child, or the music I listened to when I was in middle school and high school, I feel like I have such strong memories associated with those songs.

Growing up, it seemed as though classic rock music was always flowing through the house. I remember falling in love with Lynard Skynard and Jackson Browne’s music and stealing my dad’s CDs to play in my room on repeat. Living in Miami, we often would open the windows and sliding glass doors, and let the music play loudly through the whole house and out into the backyard. The 90’s felt so free. I remember dancing throughout the family room, my feet on my dad’s, while the music blared. I listen to Doctor My Eyes by Jackson Browne and think about it’s relevance to life.

Doctor, my eyes have seen the years
And the slow parade of fears without crying
Now I want to understand
 I have done all that I could
To see the evil and the good without hiding
You must help me if you can
 Doctor, my eyes
Tell me what is wrong
Was I unwise to leave them open for so long
 ‘Cause I have wandered through this world
And as each moment has unfurled
I’ve been waiting to awaken from these dreams
People go just where they will
I never noticed them until I got this feeling
That it’s later than it seems
 Doctor, my eyes
Tell me what you see
I hear their cries
Just say if it’s too late for me
 Doctor, my eyes
Cannot see the sky
Is this the prize
For having learned how not to cry

Once I was in middle school, I started picking up on music coming out at the time. Throughout high school, I listened to mostly rock, “alternative rock”, punk rock, ska, indie, and emo. I have a playlist on my Spotify of a bunch of the music that frequently spilled through the speakers in my room back then. There is a certain comfort I find in the music that I fell in love with back then. There is a certain magic to the lyrics – and a lack of lyrics filled with materialistic and empty words.

Nothing Worse

There’s nothing worse than hearing your parents cry and not being able to do anything about it. Moving out of the house at 17 to go off to college and not ever moving back to the same city has it’s tough moments. The main one being the anxiety you get over not being able to be there when things happen. Over the years, I’ve had to face these moments and no matter how many times it happens, I struggle. I struggled when my mom called me to tell me that my dad’s best friend passed unexpectedly. I struggle every time my mom calls/texts me about my dad’s health. I frequently struggle with thoughts about what I would do if something happened to one of my loved ones and I couldn’t make it in time from NY to Florida to say goodbye.

I always have my phone on vibrate and I pretty much always hear it. This Sunday morning, my phone was lost in the mountain of king-sized blanket piled up with me on the couch. When I came across my phone next, I had a missed call, voicemail, and text message from my dad. The text message read: “Give me a call please.” No context clues. As my parents get older, the more edgy I get when things like this happen. A knot rose up and settled in my throat as I quickly called my dad back. He picked up – his voice was shaky. “Jaime died.” At first, I thought he was referring to his friend Jaime, until he kept talking and then I realized it was my second cousin, who was only 9 days younger than my brother, that he was referring to. My dad pushed through the beginning of the call while he told me about Jaime, intermittently crying.

Jaime was healthy. He came home from work, went out for a run, came back and hung out with his parents in the kitchen. His dad told my dad that Jaime was talking about how happy he was and how he felt he was in such a good place in his life. Jaime then went to the other room and sat at the computer to play some games. A few hours later his mom went in and found him slumped over the computer dead. 32 years old. When we were kids, he and my brother were best friends. Thick as thieves. Partners in crime. (featured photo: my brother [left] and Jaime [right] laughing away)

Did you know it takes 6-8 on average to get the results of an autopsy back? 6-8 weeks of waiting. 6-8 weeks of agony. 6-8 weeks of the unknown. 6-8 weeks.

Goodbye Jaime. I’m glad that you felt you were in a good place when you passed. I’m glad you were happy.  You are so loved.

Fight for the Future

It’s amazing how many people are in their own world. They have no idea that there are others in the world and that their actions could impact someone else. Or perhaps they do know, and they just don’t care. It’s truly sad that we live in a country where the right to bear arms is fought for over the safety of our children.

I do not have any children; however, my best friend does and her two children have been such a large part of my life. I have known her since she was pregnant with her son, who is turning 8 in a week and a half. I am scared for them. I think about losing them. I think about whether or not they are safe and it terrifies me into tears.

She was living with me on November 9, 2016. I remember driving home from work sobbing while listening to Hillary Clinton’s concession speech – not necessarily because Hillary didn’t win, but because Donald Trump had been elected as the President of the United States. I sat outside of my apartment in the car trying to calm myself down – trying to erase the evidence of my tears and despair. My best friend and her two children, who were 4 & 6 at the time, were inside. I was worried and scared to let them see me upset and crying, but I gave up and went inside. And then I remembered how amazing and resilient children are. I remembered how smart and emotionally competent they are. I sat with them and had an honest talk about why I was upset and what this meant for our nation. I remember her daughter, Grace, telling me that she understood why I was sad and told me that he was a “bad person.” I realized while talking to them that I shouldn’t be ashamed to cry, or to be scared. They are stronger than I could ever be.

The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas was physically so close to my former home, and to where my entire family lives currently, but every shooting hits me in the gut. We repeatedly are fighting for gun reform. We are repeatedly arguing the same arguments. These politicians are lousy. Every person who believes that a change needs to happen needs to speak up and call their congressmen and congresswomen. I think about my best friend’s children each time one of these shootings happen. I think about my mother, who taught in the Miami-Dade Public School System for over 30 years. I think about how fortunate I am to have a mother that made it through the Public School System without an incident that threatened her life or her students’ lives. I think about the what if’s. I think about everything we have done wrong – every step we have failed that has gotten us to this point. We don’t just need gun reform. We need overall reform. We need to re-think the power that we have given the position of the President of the United States. Our democracy is falling apart. We should not be able to fight and fight against something only for the President to be able to override the House/Senate not passing something just because he wants to play who’s dick is bigger. That is not a democracy – that is a dictatorship.

People fight for the right to bear arms, but don’t fight for a stronger educational system, better pay for our teachers, or mental health counselor placements in schools. The government thinks that they have the right to tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body (i.e. taking birth control, getting an abortion), but they don’t think they should have a say in the control of guns.

We need to fight for the future. We need to provide better support for our children. They are the future. Please fight for the future, they need us.

Too Common

I’m uncomfortable with the regularity that we face shootings. We talk about another school shooting every week. Yesterday was the 18th school shooting since the start of 2018. 17 people were murdered yesterday by an individual wielding an AR-15.

The AR-15 is an assault rifle. It is the semi-automatic version of the U.S. Military’s M16. Depending on the clip size, it can shoot ~30-45 bullets per clip – as fast as you can pull the trigger, you can shoot. It is easier to shoot accurately and rapidly due to it’s design minimizing recoil. It is the most-commonly used gun in US mass shootings.  In the state of Florida, you have to be 21 to purchase a handgun, but only 18 to purchase an assault rifle.

I have friends and family with guns. I was taught how to shoot a gun by my uncle Freddie and cousins in Georgia when I was pretty young. I am not against hunting. I am not against shooting for sport. I believe you should be able to defend yourself from harm or intruders. But, I believe this only with the stipulation that you should be comprehensively investigated – thorough background checks as well as psychological and behavioral testing. I, however, do not believe that everyone has a right to a gun because some people are not of the right mind to own a gun. I do not believe that anyone outside of the military needs to own an AR-15.

One of the main issues we have is the issue is the unethical garbage we have running this country. To the senators and congressmen like Marco Rubio, who receive hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars from the NRA, I say: go fuck yourselves. You sit back and do nothing as children and adults die. You sit back and tweet from the safety of your own home that you pray for them. Meanwhile, so many live with PTSD from experiencing a tragedy like their school being shot up. You sit by and don’t fight against the issues because you’re so damn worried about money. And the money doesn’t come from the victims. The money comes from the NRA.

Owning a gun should not be a right, it should be a privilege. You know what should be a right, but is sickeningly a privilege? Healthcare. The victims of each shooting must face the numerous medical bills that accrue – even with the health insurance they may be covered by. Many insurances do not cover psychiatric care or counseling.

There were 17 deaths, but there were many more than 17 victims. Those students and staff, and their families will fight through each day for the rest of their lives. They’ll have flashbacks. They’ll have breakdowns. They’ll have trouble gaining the confidence to leave the house. They’ll have trouble returning to school for fear of reliving the moments that terrorize them when they close their eyes.

The shooter was a 19-year-old who was expelled and banned from the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas for disciplinary actions, including threats previously made in the past to harm a teacher and students. Guns are not the only issue. Where is the assistance for those with mental illnesses? Where is the awareness that not only is the issue that those with certain mental illnesses are a poor candidate to own or have access to a gun, but also the stigma around mental illness and the lack of assistance those with mental illness receive? I am not claiming that the shooter had a mental illness; although, there has so be some sort of psychopathy involved with shooting at other human beings. As someone who lives with (thank goodness, well-managed) anxiety and depression, I can say that I am not concerned about everyone with a psychiatric diagnosis owning a gun; however, there are quite a few diagnoses in which we should protect those people and the world around them by not allowing them to purchase a gun.

We need to do better. We need to work harder to create change. The whole system is dysfunctional. We are supposed to be a country run by a representation of its people, but we aren’t and it doesn’t seem like we’re even close to an accurate representation of our nation and it’s people. I cannot imagine the devastation of every student, staff, and family member in that school. We have to work harder to improve things for the future.

Hold Yourself Accountable

After moving to NYC without a job, I dove in head first to pretty much any book that even slightly piqued my interest. From WWII historical fiction such as Beneath the Scarlet Sky, to Jenny Lawson’s memoir, Furiously Happy, to a book about understanding/parenting children with behavioral issues, The Explosive Child, you couldn’t keep me from trying to polish off a book a day.

Now that I’m working, it’s becoming increasingly harder to fit time in to read. My issue with this is that I’m not making it happen. I have a couple of hours after work before Michael gets home that I could use to read, but I find myself just laying on the couch with the kitten doing absolutely nothing.  Lately, every book I try to read I can’t get into. I read a few pages or chapters and can’t seem to have the motivation to push through the rest of the book. I seem to be in a slump.

I need to get back into my bullet journal. It provides more structure and holds me to a routine. I use it to track habits and goals. I need to hold myself accountable for personal goals (i.e. reading, exercise, etc.). I’ve found in the past that writing things down seems to help with this. I enjoy these things when I do them, I just need to push myself through the starting line.

Lost After Loss

In early 2012, I adopted a tiny fuzzball Siamese kitten. He was 6 weeks old and absolutely perfect. He was with his brother. Their names were Cheech & Chong. After spending nearly a week with “Cheech,” I renamed him Percy. The animal rescue facility asked me if I was sure I wanted to adopt him, as he had a heart condition. Slightly offended, I said I was sure, as I too have heart issues. He was about 18 months when the vet told me he may have a full life, or he may only last another 6 months – it was uncertain. He had a grade IV-V heart murmur. I thought that day was rough.

December 13th 2017: I noticed he seemed to be breathing heavier than normal. I took him into the vet and they did a chest x-ray that revealed that his entire abdomen was filled with fluid. He was in severe heart failure. She did a chest tap and the fluid that was drawn out was full of blood, not clear like it was supposed to be. That’s the thing about cats, they are very good at hiding their pain. She called ahead to the animal hospital and I rushed him there, where I ended up having to put him to sleep. It was the hardest thing I had ever faced, and I spoke at my grandfather’s funeral at the age of 10.

If there was ever a cat to be qualified as an emotional support animal, Percy was it – from day one. He was there for me through so much. I know that may be hard to understand because he couldn’t speak (although, being a Siamese, he felt differently), but he could definitely console. During the time that I had Percy, I dealt with a multitude of medical issues from neurological to GI to cardiac to psychiatric. He was always there. Living alone wasn’t lonely with him.

I suffer from major depression, anxiety, and panic disorder – I was in remission from my depression, until I lost him. Losing him was like losing a large part of myself. I no longer was comfortable in the silence because I no longer had him by my side. Despite living with Michael, our home felt empty. This loss hit me like a load of bricks. I had no motivation. When I wasn’t at work, I was curled up on the couch or in bed. When people tried to talk to me about it, or I thought about him, my eyes filled with tears.

December 30th: I wasn’t ready to move on from Percy, but I was ready to rescue another kitten. We went to the shelter and met Lincoln (aka Buzz Lightyear, at the shelter). He was a timid little black-and-white kitten who was curled up in his dome bed with his brother (Woody). He was scared, but when I pulled him out, he curled up in my arms and purred. He was the right kitten. He wasn’t taking Percy’s place, but burrowing his way into a new space in my heart. We’ve had Lincoln a little over a month now. I still think about Percy often. Lincoln is starting to fill up the crater left by the loss of Percy.

It’s amazing what pets do for us.

Starting Fresh

It was a little over a year ago that I put in my notice at work, but it wasn’t a two-week notice. It was a 4-5 month notice. I had made the decision. Taken the plunge. It was official – I was moving from Gainesville, Florida to New York City.

For those who know me, know that it took me years to commit to moving out of Gainesville – out of my comfort zone. I moved from Miami to Gainesville in 2007 for college, and then never left. No, I wasn’t a career student. I graduated in 2011 and started working for UFHealth/Shands with the intention of working for a year and going back to school. Let’s just say, that didn’t exactly happen. Six years later, I was leaving my work family with no known plan. I had no job lined up. I had no job prospects at this point – I had a Bachelor’s, two graduate certificates (Medical Anatomy & Public Health w/ a concentration in Epidemiology), and 6 years of experience, and I couldn’t get a call for an interview.

May 31st, 2017 came quicker than expected. I moved out of my apartment in Gainesville to Miami to watch my parents for a few weeks before I was off to New York mid-June. Still no bites on jobs. I applied to everything that piqued my interest, and some that didn’t, but I was desperate.

June 15th came around and I flew to NYC. There I was walking up to baggage claim at LaGuardia when I spotted him. Michael surprised me and met me at the airport to welcome me to the city and help me with my things. Thank God, because I had way too much stuff to handle alone.

I unpacked my belongings into our studio apartment, but it didn’t quite feel like home.  I was happy to finally no longer be in a long-distance relationship, but at the same time, I felt a little lost. My kitty, Percy, was still in Miami with my parents and I wouldn’t get to go home to get him until August. I was jobless. The friends I had in the city had all settled into their own routines and lives and I wasn’t part of it. I spent each day looking for jobs, wandering around our neighborhood, and spending a lot of time reading at various parks.

I had spent the last 6 years pouring everything I had into working. Not having a job for ~5-6 months left me feeling empty and without a purpose. It wasn’t until the beginning of October that I got a call for an interview for the job I now have.

It has been 7.5 months since I moved and so much has happened. Looking forward to the new opportunities, new friends, new places, and new adventures.